If your child is one of the roughly 1.5 million children in the United States allergic to peanuts, you probably wish there was a quick fix solution available so that you no longer need to stress about your child getting anywhere close to a peanut. Fortunately, scientists are one step closer to such a solution—a skin patch that could stop severe peanut allergies.
DBV Technologies has developed a wearable patch that delivers small amounts of peanut protein through the skin. This type of innovative treatment is called epicutaneous immunotherapy or EPIT. Inside each patch is a sprayed-on sample of peanut protein. Once the child puts it on, the protein makes its way into the immune system through the skin. Because of the way it is delivered, the allergen never makes it to the bloodstream. This approach prevents any allergic reaction from occurring.
The patch is different from how allergies are typically treated. Usually, the only way to reduce the impact of an allergic reaction is to desensitize the individual by gradually introducing small amounts of the allergen into the body. In the case of peanut allergies, that means eating peanuts, which can be scary for parents. The patch takes away the need to train the immune system to tolerate peanuts.
The patch is currently being tested by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and conducted by the NIAID-funded Consortium of Food Allergy Research(CoFAR). It just passed phase II of the clinical trial.
Throughout the testing, the patch was found to be safe and well-tolerated. It shows promise for treating children and young adults with a peanut allergy, with greater benefits for younger children. The company showed that 83 percent of children ages 6 to 11 who took part in the trial could eat 1,000 milligrams of peanuts without having an allergic reaction after wearing a patch for three years. That is 10 times the amount of peanut they could tolerate at the beginning of the study.
The overall goal of the multi-phase study is for the children to be exposed to a small amount of peanut protein for a total of three years. Results of the year-long first part of the study were released in 2014. This latest set of data is from the extension of that first trial, in which all patients were given the opportunity to go on the higher dose patch (250 micrograms of peanut protein) for two years.
The company is now focusing the phase III clinical trials on the six to 11-year-old age group. They are also in the process of launching the first trial for children ages one to three. Finally, they intend to evaluate how to best study adolescents and adults. Results from these studies should be available by late 2017, and then the company plans to apply for FDA approval.
While you wait for the patch to be approved, please follow the latest peanut allergy recommendations recently announced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Also, stay tuned for news on more patches to treat other food allergies such as milk and eggs and for non-food allergies connected to asthma.